Cleveland Leaders File to Expunge More Than 4,000 Minor Marijuana Convictions

Share on Nextdoor
click to enlarge City Council President Blaine Griffin and Mayor Justin Bibb, outside the Justice Center. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
City Council President Blaine Griffin and Mayor Justin Bibb, outside the Justice Center.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, City Council President Blaine Griffin, City Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan and Law Director Mark Griffin carted 10 boxes to the Clerk of Courts' office at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center Wednesday afternoon. The boxes were filled with motions to expunge the records of those convicted of minor marijuana possession in the city of Cleveland since 2017.

Speaking outside the Justice Center after the paperwork had been stamped, Bibb said that the initiative to expunge these records was part of the his administration's commitment to advancing criminal justice reform. 

"It also gives folks all across the city a second chance at getting a good job and the quality of life they deserve," he said.

"We are seeing progress in Washington on this issue but it’s slow," Bibb added in a statement provided to the media later in the afternoon. "There are immediate steps we can take right now in Cleveland to clear the names of over 4,000 residents who deserve a fresh start. This is just one way we can make progress on criminal justice reform to balance the scales and remove barriers to employment and re-entry."

click to enlarge These boxes are full of motions to expunge the record of those convicted of minor marijuana possession. - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
These boxes are full of motions to expunge the record of those convicted of minor marijuana possession.

Council President Griffin noted that City Council passed legislation decriminalizing  possession of small amounts of marijuana in early 2020, but that 455 people had been wrongly (that is to say, illegally) convicted since that time. Wednesday's effort aims to erase those convictions and 3,622 more.

"This is a great day," Griffin said. "It has always been our intent to take the logical next step, after we decriminalized marijuana and made it zero jail time, to seal these misdemeanor cases in Cleveland. This is a natural progression of what we've been working on, and I'm happy that all of council can stand with the mayor today."

The administration and council had been locking horns in recent weeks as they've sorted out competing fiscal priorities, but the effort Wednesday was a demonstration of cooperation and progress.

City Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan confirmed that the motions filed Wednesday would go before Judge Michelle Early and other Judges on the Cleveland Municipal Court Bench. The expungements will take effect once they are signed by a judge.

Law Director Mark Griffin said the effort was an important one for many Clevelanders. "After today," he said  "4,077 people won't have to jump through another hoop when they're trying to get a job."

***
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles

Newsletters

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.